In August of 2009 two groups of students from EWB-UWP Traveled to Ghana from the implementation of EWB’s second major project in the region and to do assessments of the region. The team spent most of the trip constructing a pedestrian bridge in the village of Gidi. The bridge was built to allow citizens of the area access to a train station and children of the area access to school during the rainy season, which is roughly half of the year. During the dry season the train station and school are both fully accessible by land.
The bridge that the village of Gidi requested, on UWP-EWB’s initial visit in ’07 and again during the August 2008 trip, was chosen to be implemented in August 2009 by the chapter as the first large scale project in the area. The bridge project was selected based on the chapter’s belief that it would serve the greatest need of the people in the project area and was the most feasible for the chapter to complete of all realistic potential projects.
The needs being met by the bridge in the project area are twofold. Firstly, the children of Gidi could not reach the nearest school, approximately 2-1/2 miles away, during the wet season. Secondly, adults in the area were unable to reach a train station, located 1/4 mile from the village of Gidi, during the wet season. The train is essential to economic growth of the village. Only larger city markets provided a stable source of income and those markets could be easily reached via the train.
The cause for the inaccessibility of these crucial areas during the wet season was due to a stream with a very wide flood plain. This stream swells to a depth of three to four feet and a width of roughly 130 feet during the two wet seasons that occur each year. The flooded stream prevented the children of Gidi from attending school and adults from using the railway station several weeks out of the year.
Prior to the August 2009 implementation project, the village had been using two, approximately 6x4-inch, eight foot long reinforced concrete beams to cross the stream in the dry season. To the chapter’s knowledge, no other prior attempts had been made to bridge or establish a crossing for the flooded stream.
The implementation of the Gidi footbridge project was completed over the course of 10 days from August 9, 2009 through August 19, 2009. The project proceeded smoothly and was finished four days ahead of schedule. The three contingency days that were in the schedule were also not used as work days.
The bridge team was separated into smaller teams consisting of carpentry/formwork, earthen embankments, rebar, and foundations. The separate work teams allowed multiple individual tasks to be accomplished simultaneously. The project mentors provided guidance on the more difficult tasks while the students directed the people of Gidi on specific tasks. Digging of foundations was the first task and was mostly completed by the people of Gidi. The footings were dug in two days and both footings were poured on the same day. Concrete was mixed using a single sack diesel powered concrete mixer, delivered at the end of the second day of the trip.
Rebar for the footings was cut by field measurements while the rebar for the abutments and wings were cut according to plan. Field measurements were required for the footings because the sizes and skews were changed due to a field-fit process. The footings were raised approximately two feet due to a high ground water table on site. The rebar was sunk into the ground to account for the extra length.
The falsework for the bridge deck was finished on a Sunday. Although Sunday is a day of rest in Gidi, villagers arrived in the afternoon to assist in the assembly of the deck false work. The following days, frames for the beam formwork were carried onto the bridge as well as the rebar cages for the beams. The formwork for the beams was prefabricated in sections on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday so that it was immediately available when needed. On Monday the deck was poured. The beams were poured on the following Tuesday and Wednesday. Again, due to lumber constraints, only one beam could be poured at a time.
The final pour was completed on the tenth day of the implementation trip. There was never a problem with the mixer or gas powered concrete vibrator and materials were consistently on site. Throughout the entire process, members of Gidi were voluntarily doing the majority of the manual labor. This included digging out the footings, tying rebar, nailing wall forms together, carrying materials from the village, assisting in concrete pours, and moving earth for the embankments leading up to the bridge, along with various other tasks.
On the twelfth day of the implementation trip the bridge team returned to remove finale formwork, cleanup the work site, and hold a village meeting to discuss bridge maintenance. The clean up and formwork removal went smoothly as did the village meeting. The most important part of the meeting was to notify the village that the falsework beneath the bridge could not be removed until 21 days after the beams were poured or September 8th, 2009. This and other maintenance tasks were clearly understood by the village leaders during the meeting.
During the Assessment portion of this trip, the assessment team traveled to six of the seven established villages located within our project area and assessed the conditions of each of the villages with respect to health, education, agriculture, erosion, water, sanitation and other general subjects. On the ground, they also tested all of the drinking water sources, soil testing for farmland, and GPS mapping for each village. After this data was collected we worked with most of the villages to select possible projects. The assessment team requested project proposals from the following villages; Papase, Ahiabu and Chinto for further consideration. After getting the proposals, we mapped each location with GPS and had a survey crew site them. With this general data and the specific data gathered, EWB will decide which of the proposed projects will be selected for our next implementation trip. While the team was visiting Nsumia and Papase, they inspected the projects implemented in August 2008 and oversaw maintenance performed by the respective villages. Initially the Assessment team had a planned to use the full sixteen days for assessment, but due to restructuring of our itinerary, they were able to finish our assessment in eight days.
The Village of Papase is approximately five kilometers west of Doboro and is the third of the three largest villages in the region. Approximately 500 people live in the community. A railway station is located near the village, which aids travel to surrounding areas. Trains run at 6:00 AM to Accra and return at 7:00 PM, creating a long day for commuters to the capital. Several buildings at the station date to British colonization a century ago but are not maintained. The community was founded 200 years ago which indicates Papase is much older than other surrounding communities. A map of the project area is available in Appendix A. There is a new road construction project in progress that will bring an industrial park near the village of Papase. The impact of this project is not yet known because of this, we are currently refraining from a new implementation project in Papase.
The Village of Nsumia, the second largest community in the region, is approximately two kilometers west of Doboro. Nsumia also contains significant commercial activity. The population of Nsumia is reported to be 1,200 people. Based on the number of residences and the level of human activity, we conclude the population is likely to be much less. A regularly maintained feeder road connecting outlying areas with hard surface roads passes through the village contributing to the economic activity. A significant source of trade is derived from Nsawam, a city three kilometers north of Nsumia. Evidence of severe erosion is apparent in Nsumia as in all villages. Undermined structure foundations, collapsed buildings, gullies measured in meters, and rutted pathways are a few of the complications of the storm water challenges inherent to the area. There is no comprehensive solution to the erosion problem as the topsoil is fragile sand to sandy loam underlain by impervious clay. Steep topography contributes to low concentration times and high runoff.
The Village of Gidi, approximately 800 people, is located east of the Papase railway station. Approximately seventy five distinct languages are spoken in Ghana with innumerable diverging dialects. This language diversity was very apparent in Gidi as conversation had to pass through two interpreters.
The Village of Vudu is a community of uncertain number and is visibly the most economically deprived of all the villages. The community was founded 50 years ago; the wife of the original chief is still alive at the age of 80. The population is indicated to be 400 people, but upon inspection there are only approximately 30 buildings visible in the entire community, indicating a much lower number.
The Village of Ahiabu reportedly contains 675 people. The community is located approximately two kilometers northwest of Doboro and is on the northern edge of the area identified for the project. Although a remote community, Ahiabu is in economic respects superior to the other villages of similar status identified. Agricultural methods are varied and a significant amount of commerce exists within the community. Many people were observed devoting time to tasks of a higher economic level than simple subsistence.
Chinto is a community on the northwestern part of the project area. No formal assessment of the community has been conducted to date, however the chapter has been assured that the community is eager for involvement in the project.
On the second phase of the assessment trip, we spent time talking to the elders in each village about project candidates. Our approach to deciding if a project was suitable was to hear what each village wanted/needed and from that list (which list), choose the projects that we consider a high priority. Our chapter believes that improving education in the area will lead to improved prosperity. The two school projects are high priorities however they are difficult to implement because of cost, design and arrangements with the government. A school would greatly benefit education as well as economy general health in the villages is also a very high priority.
At the present time we have three possible projects for the next implementation trip; a drinking water project in Chinto, a school in Nsumia or a school in Ahiabu. Our chapter is weighing each option based off of perceived need, cost, cultural impact, group ability, community commitment, long term effect and expected improvement in quality of life. Each project meets each of our feasibility characteristics. Both of the school projects have a substantial benefit to the community however they have a high implementation cost. The villages of Nsumia and Chinto both get free materials from the quarry, which significantly reduces the cost of implementation. Our chapter is hesitant to choose a project dealing with drinking water because of the unintended consequences that could arise. Though we are hesitant, the need of a second reliable water source is high.
During the trip a film crew from the National Science Foundation (NSF) filmed the EWB team for part of a documentary about EWB-USA. The documentary, which has yet to be released will feature EWB-UWP along with other student chapters. The NSF released a short preview of the documentay.